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Material Handling Explained: Outdoor Utility Carts & Tuggers?

What happens when equipment, tools, or products need to be moved across a parking lot or from building to building? Outdoor material handling presents a whole other set of hurdles to overcome. When accounting for rough surfaces or bad weather, finding an option that is both safe and effective can take some research. Here’s what you need to know about navigating indoor-outdoor material handling applications with outdoor utility carts and tuggers.

Outdoor Material Handling Problems

Should your operation require any outdoor transport, it’s important to specify to the equipment manufacturer what environment the final solution needs to operate in. The first environmental factor to consider are surfaces. Gravel, pavement, potholes, grass, and uneven terrain can undermine a motorized solution if it’s not designed to operate safely outdoors. Varied surfaces can cause a loss of traction, particularly when the ground is loose, uneven, or wet. The loss of contact between the drive and the surface wheel often forces the operator to exert more effort than is safe to keep the equipment moving.

Another problem unpredictable surfaces can present is additional shock to an outdoor utility cart or tugger. As a result, pushing or pulling a load over inclines, bumps, or holes can damage the equipment and the materials being transported. Especially with inclines, the force required to move the load increases quickly, which also exposes the operator to greater risk of injury.

Indoor-outdoor material handling also means that both the equipment and the load are coming in contact with precipitation, humidity, and extreme temperatures. When exposed to rain or extreme temperatures, inadequate metal framing will corrode and the wrong electrical components can short out or present a safety risk. However, investigating the full scope of the transport problem beforehand can help you avoid making a purchase that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

How Outdoor Utility Carts & Tuggers Are A Solution

There are a two ways to approach an indoor-outdoor material handling solution. For applications involving limited outdoor exposure with majority indoor operation, using a standard motorized cart or tugger can work. As long as the operator avoids puddles, uses the equipment only during light precipitation, and dries it off once indoors, there likely won’t be complications with some outdoor use.

For applications that require substantial outdoor transport, rain or shine, a custom outdoor utility cart or tugger is necessary. To keep the solution cost effective, engineers at Electro Kinetic Technology will usually take a standard cart or tugger and augment it to withstand outdoor use. To address any inclines or varied terrain, we choose larger pneumatic drive tires with a more aggressive tread pattern. Larger casters also need to be installed, along with a more robust suspension system to keep the drive wheels in contact with the surface at all times. These specific customizations ensure that a motorized solution adequately protects the operator from injury, while also keeping material transport as efficient as possible.

To keep motorized equipment operational when exposed to the elements, engineers may make a number of changes on the electrical side. Adding a NEMA/IP rated enclosure to protect the batteries, charger, and electrical drive is one typical step. Operator controls also require attention. In more extreme conditions, the engineers can use specialized electrical components for outdoor use.

To prevent the corrosion of mechanical components, engineers may also use protective paint or corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel, anodized aluminum, or galvanized steel. These customizations will affect the frame, handlebar, racking, suspension, caster structure, and hardware of an outdoor utility cart or tugger.

Whether a custom or standard cart or tugger is right for your needs, our team is always here to guide you in the right direction. For more information on ergonomic motorized equipment for indoor-outdoor use, connect with one of our engineers here.

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